Ireland took the Galle Test match into the final session of day three but, in truth, they were only delaying the inevitable.

Sri Lanka’s victory by an innings and 280 runs is not even in the top 10 biggest in Test cricket, with England, Australia, and India among those who have lost by biggest margins, but that was no consolation to skipper Andrew Balbirnie who admitted they were outclassed.

“You want to perform well, but having had only one Test match and no other first class cricket, and then have to go out and field for 130 overs and then face the class of bowlers they have, particularly in the spin department, you only get better at that by doing it more consistently,” he said.

“There were a couple of nuggets which threatened to be bigger but we have to have to be realistic with where we are at in this format.”

A second Test at the same venue, starting next Monday, can only enhance their knowledge and experience, but Balbirnie was right when he said he “didn’t want to be critical of individual efforts” in these extreme conditions with only one previous Test match in the last four years and not many more first-class games.

They batted for longer and scored more runs in the second innings here and, but for a few unlucky dismissals, would have taken the match even deeper, albeit without affecting the result.

Resuming on Tuesday, even their first objective, to score another 275 runs to avoid the follow-on was mission impossible but it was encouraging to see Ireland batting with intent, none more so than Lorcan Tucker.

The scorer of Ireland’s second Test match century in Dhaka this month hit five fours in the space of 13 balls, including three in an over off left arm pace man Vishwa Fernando, before he was given out on field by home umpire Kumar Dharmasena. Tucker immediately reviewed the decision and was so unlucky to get two ‘umpire’s calls’ on both line and height but good enough to back the umpire’s poor decision.

Next man in, Mark Adair charged down the pitch second ball and was stumped and Andy McBrine was plumb leg before in the following over as Ireland lost their last three wickets for just 26 runs.

With a lead of 448, Sri Lanka had no hesitation in asking Ireland to bat again and Prabath Jayasuriya, the slow left armer, who had bowled 20 consecutive overs from the Galle Fort End, and finished with figures of seven for 52, continued where he left off, this time with a new ball.

In a repeat of the first innings, however, it was Vishwa who took the first two wickets. Murray Commins completed a miserable match with a four-ball pair, another angled bat his downfall as a leading edge went gently to cover, and he seems sure to make way for the returning Paul Stirling in next week’s Test.

Balbirnie was then caught at slip for just six – which is actually the captain’s fourth highest score in his ten Test innings, albeit including two half-centuries.

Jayasuriya had to wait until his sixth over to get back among the wickets, another slip catch, this time off the bat of James McCollum, but it was the first of three wickets in the last six overs to the spinners before lunch as Tucker, promoted to No.5, swept once too often and was leg before to Jayasuraiya and PJ Moor was caught at short leg off Rumesh Mendis to leave Ireland 41 for five at the break.

With no scoreboard pressure, Ireland’s form batsmen Harry Tector and Curtis Campher then put on 60 for the sixth wicket with Ireland’s best batting of the match. Both were dismissed in the space of four overs with no luck whatsoever.

First, Campher was superbly caught at leg slip after magnificent anticipation by the short leg fielder and then Tector, having set off for a single, saw new partner George Dockrell unmoved and, as he turned back, he dropped his bat and without it his dive to retrieve his ground could not beat the throw from cover.

McBrine was yet another caught slip dismissal but Dockrell and Mark Adair survived to tea and afterwards the latter, in a much more responsible innings than his first effort, was rewarded with three boundaries in an unbeaten 23 as the pair passed Ireland’s previous best ninth wicket partnership in Tests.

The two class spinners, however, had the final say with Mendis trapping Dockrell in front and Ben White – dismissed for the first time in his ninth Ireland innings – went the same way, giving Jayasuriya his tenth wicket in the match, his second such haul in only his sixth Test.

Balbirnie summed up the match well: “We knew it would be challenging and we got a real taste of what it is like at the top of Test cricket over the last three days. We are going to have to learn quickly, learn on our feet and hopefully produce a better performance in the next game.”